April 29, 2007

Ok, I did it. I successfull defended my research, I passed my oral comps, and my thesis is just waiting to be bound--I'm officially done with my master's degree. Other than dealing with a semi-serious identity crisis, I'm feeling pretty good about this accomplishment.

Yesterday went smoothly for the most part. I'm sure you're interested in the details, so let me just give you a few of the highlights.

1) My advisor arranged for his 7th grade daughter to babysit for James while I presented my thesis. When I met her I said, "Hi, my name is Amy and this is James!" She looked at James and said "Ooooohhhh, he's SO cute!" A nice, 7th grade girl type of reaction. I did a quick babysitter assessment, and her flowered dress seemed to indicate that she was a sweet kid. Then she looked up at me and said "My name is Taylor. But I prefer to be called 'Storm' or 'Oh-Evil-One.'" She showed me her certified babysitter certificate from the girlscouts and I was like, "uh, ok..." as she and two of her closest friends wheeled my innocent child away in his stroller. Jared assured me that 7th grade is a very awkward time for kids. Thankfully 'Oh-Evil-One' came skipping back to campus with her pig tails bouncing one hour later and delivered James in a single piece.

2) My thesis research was about the suitability of a community assessment model and the development of a revitalization plan for a town in Texas. The small, rural community that I focused on is called Rosebud. When I asked for questions or comments at the end of my defense, this is what I got from my classmates...

Classmate #1: Have you seen the movie Citizen Kane? Because at the end, the guy is all 'Rosebud, Rosebud...' That's the name of his sled.

Me: [thoroughly confused] Wow, thanks for the information. I was not aware of that as I have not seen that movie. (?).

Classmate #2: Do you know what Rosebud needs? They need a race car to break down in their town.

Me: Really? How do you think that would contribute to the local revitalization efforts?

Classmate #2: Yeah, at least that's what worked for Radiator Springs in the movie Cars.

Me: You're right. Thanks for bringing that up. I hadn't made that connection. (?).

3) For my oral comps, I had to ask a question about efficiency and effectiveness in policy making. I used OSHA as an example of a governement agency that increases equity, but decreases efficiency. One of the professors on the panel replies to my answer with the following question:

Prof: I appreciate your point of view, but do you believe equity was truly achieved when all of the doors were left locked and there was a deadly fire in the chicken coups?

Me: [thinking: What in the shnit is this woman talking about???] I'm not sure I understand the what you're asking, would you mind reframing the question?

Yeah, so I still have no clue what the woman was talking about. But I don't care. I passed, and I'm graduating! Phew.

Product Review: The Running Skirt.
April 25, 2007

I bought myself a running skirt last night. Running skirt???? Yes, it's just like it sounds--it's a skirt that you run in. They're actually quite cute, and resemble those shorty-short little tennis skirts that we all loved in the 1980s. They're just as short, and usually have some sort of built in spankies underneath. The high end, performance-fabric running skirts run somewhere between 50 and 70 dollars. I'm way too cheap (and way too broke) to spend that kind of money, so I decided to take a spin in the cheap knock-off model from Kohl's.

**Ladies beware. You get what you pay for.**

I looked cu-ute in the dressing room at the store. I thought the skirt complimented my legs quite nicely. But all cuteness aside, I immediately sensed a future problem with this 12 dollar garment. The spankies were not quite underwear and not quite bike shorts--I don't know what they were trying to be. But in a moment of recklessness, I purchased the skirt anyway.

I changed into the skirt in the driver's seat of my '89 Blazer, strutted my cute little ass right into the YMCA and hopped up onto a treadmill. I set the machine to a ten minute mile pace and I was off. Let me supply you with a workout summary:

3 seconds into my run--Wow!!! Can you say cool breeze? It feels like I'm hauling along nekkid from the waste down.

10 seconds into my run--I suffered with a serious wedgie all day, everyday through the 7th grade. I'm having a very strong 7th grade flash back.

20 seconds into my run--Ok, there is so much fabric jammed up my crack that I'm beginning to think that there's an industrial-strength hoover up my colon.

60 seconds into my run--It's still feeling breezy down below, and now every stair stepper and upright bike directly behind my treadmill is occupied by a man over the age of 50. Either this skirt performs some sort of optical illusion and makes my ass look firm, or I'm showing my hoo-haa to an army of male retirees.

34 minutes later--I step off of the treadmill.

6 seconds later--the stairmasters and bikes are empty.

To sum it up: If you're looking for something fashionable and functional, drop the big dough on a running skirt. But if you find some excitement in the possibility of exposing your cooter to the entire YMCA, then this is the product for you!
Happy running girls!

Life After Graduation
April 23, 2007

Saturday is my big day. It's the day I defend my thesis and take my oral comp exam. In other words, it's the day I officially finish graduate school. Lately, I have been hearing the same question over and over, "So what are your plans for after graduation?" Are you curious too? Well good, because I'm dying to share.

After graduation I'm planning to start a non-profit organization from the ground up. It will be focused on rural community development, and offer consulting services on a sliding scale fee schedule. I've already begun the application process for grant funding. During the development phase I should have some extra time on my hands. I hope to occupy that time by working in the ever-growing field of public financial reform. I can't wait for the opportunity to apply my theoretical knowledge to a real world setting.

Ummmm, JOKING!

Here are my actual post-graduation goals:
  • I'm going to take some "me time" and eat at Sonic every single day for the rest of my life. "Don't worry onion rings! Mama's coming to getcha!"

  • I'd like to stop feeding James M & Ms and Goldfish crackers for breakfast.

  • I plan to pay my electric bill that was due two weeks ago.

  • I'm going to clean the bathroom...possibly.

  • I'm going to catch up with my old friends from Harmony (in other words, I'm going to watch the soap opera Passions until my brain oozes out of my earholes).

  • I'd like to try to get James out of his pajamas before Jared comes home from school at least once a week.

  • I plan to return four very overdue library books and never pay the corresponding [outrageous] $50 late fee.

  • And finally, I'm going to change out of the grey sweatpants that I've been wearing every minute for the last five months (and take a quick shower before I change back into them).
No resume required to achieve these goals! Wish me luck in my lofty endeavors!

Reading is Bad
April 20, 2007

We put James to bed around 8 o'clock last night. Teeth were brushed, prayers were said, and the only thing left to do was deposit James into his crib. We tucked him in tightly with his favorite blanket and wound up his animal themed mobile. Generally, the mobile is enough to lull him to sleep, but last night he had a new request..."Mommy, book?" My heart just melted. "Ohhhh, my little boy wants to read before bed! How sophisticated!" I handed him one of his favorite board books by Max Lucado, an adorable tale about how God made each of us special.

My heart was full with visions of James falling to sleep with fresh, spiritual thoughts circling in his little mind. Until Jared chimed in:

"WHAT are you doing?" He demanded.

"Um, I'm letting James look at a book before he falls asleep," I replied.
"Why?! Oh c'mon Amy...he doesn't need that! You're going to turn him into a high-maintenance sleeper. Super Nanny would sooooo not like what you're doing!!"

"Are you serious? You don't want our kid reading before bed? Reading before bed is a good habit for kids to get into, Jared."

"Not according to Super Nanny. He should be able to fall asleep on his own. I DON'T like this, Amy."
"Well Jared............................................kiss my butt."

Yes friends, I actually reverted to the age-old seventh grade retort. I told my husband to kiss my butt. I was at a loss for words. I simply didn't know how to reply to his twisted interpretation of Super Nanny's advice. I love her--and it hurts me deeply when I hear her universal wisdom defiled.

On second thought, maybe Jared is right. Maybe reading before bed will hurt our child. That's it, no more books--we're getting a TV, a DVD player, an x-box and a kareoke machine for James's room. I know it will be expensive, but the last thing I want to do is hinder my child's development.

Sheesh...it's good think I've got Jared. And it's a really good thing that he's got Jo the Super Nanny! No more books in this house.

Humor heals.
April 18, 2007

I'm not going to be that person. You know the one, somebody dies and suddenly the deceased person was their supposed best friend? "Oh my gosh! I can't believe she's gone! She was one of my most special friends all through middle school!" But really, they probably just sat next to each other in Earth Science and happened to be at the same birthday party once. I'm not going to be that person.

My time at Virginia Tech was short, freshman year to be exact. It wasn't the right fit for me. Too far from home, I had no car, and the girls wore cardigan sweater sets and used curling irons every morning before class. This last discovery rocked my world. Curling irons? Before class? I honestly thought that the universe prohibited the use of curling irons unless a person was in a wedding or attending a prom. But college is for learning, right?
I learned that I'm a New Englader at heart, so I transferred to Maine. Maine girls are honestly more likely to braid their armpit hair than they are to use a heated hair appliance. Here's an illustratvie tidbit for ya--one of my roomates got dumped for the female captain of the Woodsman Team who sported a full-back tatoo of a battle ship...can you believe that? I guess the guy had an appreciation for fine art. It's 100% true.
Ahhh, U Maine--take a deep breath and smell the pine trees, the paper mill and the hippies' body odor. Love it. The bulk of my college memories are set in Maine, but a few of my favorites are set in the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. For example, did you know that I lived in the same dorm as football star Micheal Vick? I have two words to describe that man--Mama's boy. That year I also dated a guy who's last name was Smirnoff, adopted Holiday the Iguana (who is now over four feet long), saw a fantastic Tori Amos concert, purchased my still-favorite sweater, and chucked one circa-1970 exercise bike out of a fifth floor window. I hope you're interested in hearing more about flying bike, because that's where I'm headed with this post.
Somehow, the universe matched up the two worst laundry-doers on the planet and made them college roomates in 1998--Amy and Ali. Eventually our laundry situation got so out of hand that we decided to pay someone to do it all for us. We loaded five laundry bags into the car and drove it to the pay-by-the-pound laundry mat. 81 pounds--totally out of the budget. So we loaded 81 pounds of dirty laundry back into the car and drove to the Salvation Army to buy a new wardrobe--totally not out of the budget.
We walked into the salvo and locked our eyes on a circa-1970's exercise bike. It was very similar to the one pictured above, except in was aqua and had a shiny chrome seat. I can testify to the truth of love an first sight, because it happened to me that day--I loved that bike. So off we went with 81 pounds of dirty laundry, no new clothes and one big-ass exerciser hanging out of the sunroof of a little red Honda.
We rode the hell out of that old thing. Sometimes we would watch VH1 all night on our 13 inch TV and take 10 minute turns on the bike. We didn't need to be gym rats like all of the other girls, we had just what we needed to keep our asses tight and spirits up. Sometime we would cheer each other on, sometimes we would eat oreos while we rode, sometimes we studied. It didn't much matter what we were doing, bike riding was our roomate bonding time.
One night, 2 or 3 months after we bought the bike, we were lying on the bunk beds in our dorm room. I was on the top bunk admiring our homemade artwork on the ceiling, and Ali was lying on the bottom bunk admiring the Amy-shaped divet of the top mattress. I can't recall all of the details, but our conversation went something like this:
Amy-I'm bored.
Ali-Me too.
Amy-I'm sooo bored.
Ali-I'm more bored than you are.
Amy-Do you want to throw the bike out the window?
Amy-Ali, don't pretend like you don't understand. I asked if you want to throw the bike out the window.
Ali-Yeah, let's do it!
So we opened up the window, dismantled the screen and hurled our beloved bike out the window of 5022 Cochrane Hall. About three seconds later we heard metal hit pavement followed by some very angry cursing. We hung our heads out the window, screamed our apologies to to that innocent bystander and asked him if he was interested in throwing the bike out of our window. He was. Three minutes later there was a knock on our door. It was a very handsome African American male, holding our now very unattractive exercise bike. He was like, "do I just throw it right out here?" We were like "yup." And out it went.
The bike throwing went on all night. If I remember correctly, every single person on the floor took a turn--including the international student from India, the kid in the wheel chair, and both RAs. A lot of participants were drunk, but most were not. The mangled up bike sat in our floor lounge until the end of that year. And occassionally, the resident fifth floor pot-head would attempt to ride it in his weed-induced stupor. Damn that thing was squeeky--but very well built! The aqua exercise bike throwing was nothing more than one giant laugh-your-ass-off fest...college bonding at its finest. Now it's a very trippy, nonsensical memory.
This is exactly how I remember VT. 26,000 dumb-old kids seeking an education and seeking some fun. I hope...I really, really hope that as time goes forward, the aqua and chrome exercise bike will be the first thought to pop into my mind when I hear someone mention Virginia Tech. Today, unfortunately, it's not.

Not feeling funny today.
April 16, 2007

I'm definitely not feeling funny today. Not after such a ridiculous tragedy. Millions of students, including me, have walked around the campus of Virgina Tech feeling justifiably safe. Unfortunately, things will never be the same again in Blacksburg. It is simply reprehensible that such an idyllic place has been tainted like this. My heart and prayers are with every person affected by this horrible occurrence.
Live every day to the fullest, this could be your last.
It could happen to you.
Hug your kids a little bit tighter today.
What is the world coming to?
Cliche phrases? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. But unfortunately, cliches are developed according to truths.

Quick Tip
April 14, 2007

Just thought I'd share a quick tip with all of my penny-pinching friends out there.

This month our electric bill was $60 compared to our normal $150. Wow! What a savings!

How did we do it you ask? We made sure to turn off any lights that weren't being used, we didn't vacuum at all, and we only did one load of laundry the entire month (subsequently, we only used the dryer one time).
Sure we were turning our underwear inside out, but now we have enough money to buy extra underwear. This is so great!

[sidenote: The granny panties pictured above are not mine, they are up for auction on ebay. No bids yet, so get on it if you're interested!!!]

Basketball and empty promises.
April 13, 2007

This past winter, I fell into my first-ever self-induced-pity-funk. After wallowing around for a few weeks (snapping at my husband, wishing life was more like a Hallmark commercial, and listlessly watching daytime TV) I decided to defunkify my life. My game plan was plain and simple--try new things. I thought it would be fun to mix life up a bit, and put myself out on that old proverbial limb. So I did--when I got a haircut I got some bangs, I tried exotic new recipes, I went to some swanky Dallas wine get-togethers, and I joined a basketball team. Yes, I joined a freaking basketball team.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are two reasons why I run. 1) I run so I can eat candy, cookies, chocolate, cake and cheetos, and 2) I run because I have sucked at every other sport and physical activity that I have ever participated in. It's true:

  • I used to take dance class--when everyone else did cartwheels across the stage at the annual recital, I had to do some lame-o leaps. When I enthusistically leaped out of stage right, the applause unfailingly ceased...people were confused. By the time I'd lept my way to stage left, I was crying...every year. Stupid-ass dance class.

  • I couldn't pass beginners 2 in kid-swimming. I'll be trying again this summer.

  • I took ice-skating lessons. I was awesome at circling to the left, but let me tell you, circling to the right is not as easy as it looks (this skating difficulty carried over into my short-lived ice-hockey career in 1998).

  • And finally, my fresman field hockey team had a 0-21 record...I was the goalie.

Well guess what? Now I can add baketball to my list of things that I stink at. What a shocker.

My friend Cynthia promised me that playing basketball would be fun. This, my friends, was the most empty promise of fun that I've received in my entire life. She also promised me that it wouldn't be competitive--let's just go ahead and file that in the empty promises folder, too. When woman are lacing up ankle braces and popping in mouth guards, things are bound to get a little rough.

But you know what I hate the most? When my teammates try to tell me that I'm good at basketball. "Oh, stop being so hard on yourself!" "You're not bad at this." "Nice steal!" Yup, it would have been a nice steel if I hadn't take the ball from my very own teammate. Ladies, this is a Church basketball league, we're playing this game in the house of the Lord, so let's just stop with the bold-faced lies, ok?

Bottom line? Basketball is not my thing, and the stats speak for themselves:

Games played: 2. Shots taken: 3. Points earned: 0. Rebounds: 0. Fouls: 4. Embarrassing moments: 42. Moments of confusion: 80. Spells of spontaneous crying: 1. Holding back spells of spontaneous crying: 2.

So there ya have it, basketball is not fun. But Cynthia, if you're ever looking for a real good time you should come over and change James's diaper--I promise you, it's fun!

Three signs that your child isn't ready for potty-training.
April 12, 2007

We bought James a potty seat for his second birthday. You must understand that this is no boring, run-of-the-mill potty seat--this is a Dora the Explorer potty seat. It's nice and cushioned and it's dotted with pictures of Dora, her nifty backpack, and her monkey-buddy Boots. But the best detail? It has the word "vaminos!" printed all over it [note: vaminos is the spanish equivilant of "let's go!"--very appropriate, don't ya think?]

Inititally, James seemed quite excited when he opened the potty-seat. He pulled it out of the gift bag, unwrapped the tissue paper, and locked eyes with one of the little Dora characters. "Oh wow!" he said, "Mommy o-pen?" Well of course! I took the seat out of it's crunchy plastic housing and handed it to James. He immediately put in on top of his little head, smiled an enormous smile and said "Nice hat! Hat!" And this my friends, was the first indication that my child might not be ready for potty training.

Jared and I made a quick decision and agreed that the best approach was to let James casually play with the potty a bit---that way he could discover for himself how much fun these things really are! When Jared and I left the living room a few minutes later, he was proudly sporting his new hat as he rode his little bike around the living room. When we returned a moment later, he was running over the potty seat with his bike...repeatedly. Forward, reverse, *snicker*, forward, reverse, *snicker, forward, reverse, *snicker*. Clearly, this was our second sign that James is not ready to be potty trained.

And the third sign was clearly delivered to us on our balcony. James likes to stand on top of a cooler so he can watch the action over our second story porch railing (he's developing his neighborly eavesdropping skills early). I was supervising this cooler-standing-stunt when he casually mentioned the potty seat..."Mommy, where d'potty?" I mistakenly interpreted this interest as a glimmer of hope. So we went inside, fetched the potty and resumed our nightly cooler perch. I handed James the potty seat, he proudly held it with both hands and proclaimed "now I frow it! Weady, set..." Fortunatly, I intercepted the seat before its imminent release. James was dissapointed. "Nooooo...I frow it!!!!!"

Sorry big guy, but that Dora potty-seat was $12 and your mommy is on a budget. We're not tossing it off the balcony, we're not running it over with the bike, but I see no reason why you can't wear it as a hat. So Happy Birthday buddy, I sure hope you enjoy your awesome new headwear (?).

Marriage Tips
April 11, 2007

For all of my avid readers (according to my comments, I have none), you will notice that this is my second post of the day. "Why" you might wonder "is a girl who has to defend her thesis and take oral comps in a week, clean a pig sty apartment, and wrap her kid's birthday gifts blogging when she's just so busy?" Well folks, I'll tell you why. I am busy, I am overwhelmed, and there aren't enough hours in this day--but that heartfelt post from earlier simply failed to meet my needs. According to this era's physch-babble-lingo, I'm getting to know the inner-me--and the inner me seems to require some dose of reality-humor to feel satisfied, so here it goes...

I'm married. I have been for almost five years. In those years I've learned about the distinction between love and like. For example, I love my husband always--I like my husband most of the time. Today my friends, I'm not liking the old man so much. In honor of these irrational-throw-me-under-a-van-PMS induced feelings, I've compiled a short list of things I do *on occassion* to ruffle the old husbandly feathers.

1. From time to time I'll 'inadvertantly' switch the CD case in Jared's car. You see, we have three CD cases in our family: his musics, my music, and plain old crap. So Jared will be driving down the avenue and get a hankering to listen to some Pearl Jam or Dave Matthew's--but thanks to the old switcharoo, he has to settle for Celine Dionne or Comtemporary Christian Hits Volume II. Don't ask me why, but I feel so much satisfaction when I hear the old Blazer pull up and Jared is dispassionatley singing along to Endless Love.

2. Sometimes, like today, I'll pack multiple bean-based items in Jared's lunch. That way he'll fart his ass off during a quiet meeting or in a hands-on lab. Many apologies to Jared's classmates and lab partners.

3. Jared hates little messes. So sometimes I set them up in his favorite places around the house. You know how it goes, I empty a Barrel of Monkeys on the floor next to his side of bed, put some tub toys between the sheets, let Gracie gnaw on a carrot in his closet, empty a box or two of crayons into his bathroom drawer. He gets so exasperated--sweet, sweet satisfaction.

4. And finally, every once-in-a-while, when we're in a tiff, I give James some casual shoe-tying lessons. In other words I'm like "James buddy, come here and play with the stringy part of Daddy's shoe." I swear that kid is going to be an Eagle Scout some day--his knots are invincible.

So there you have it. Some tips to cope with normal, marital frustration. And may heaven pour endless blessings upon the head of my saintly husband.

April 11, 2007

It's hard for me to swallow the fact that James is two today, but he most definitely is. Two years ago today my life took a fast turn toward motherhood, and I'm so very grateful that it did. James is quite simply a blessing and my own personification of joy. Never did I imagine that I could love so a person so much, and somehow he seems to love me equally in return. To love and to be loved, this is what my life is all about.

In his two year tenure, James has managed to teach me a multitude of unintentional and unconventional lessons. When I take the time to stop and think about the morals of these stories, I learn that I would be a much happier person if I lived like him. Here are a few that come to mind:

If someone is angry with you instead of fighting back, just give them some affection--they're probably having a tough day.

If you step in poop and it ends up all over your shoes, your pants, your hands and the slide, just wipe it up and keep on playing--a little bit of poop doesn't have to ruin a perfectly good day.

Read books, lots of books. And if you can, read books while you're snuggled up with the person you adore.

Sing songs when you feel happy, and sing songs to other people when they feel sad. Sing songs you know, or make up new ones. You don't have to have a great voice to sing a solo with confidence.

And finally, homework won't go away on its own, but the urge to dance in the kitchen will definitely pass. So just dance now and work later.

Thanks for the lessons, James. You are 35 pounds of pure wisdom. We're going to have fun today!

Ten Days of Chocolate
April 5, 2007

There's this Christian radio station that I like to listen to from 1-2 every weekday. They have a call-in show that's kind of like Dr. Laura, but a little less abrasive. People call in, they describe the ridiculous predicaments they've gotten themselves into, and plead for guidance. I love that! I can't tell you how much I enjoy listening to other peoples' self-inflicted troubles--it's my daily self-esteem boost. I listen and think "Oh my gosh! You freaking idiot! I would neeeevver do that!" "C'mon, what did you think was going to happen when you married a girl who never finished middle school!?" "Oooooh, ok, I've done that too...let's just get to the next caller."

Lately, I've been paying attention to the commercials on this radio station. Most of them are equally entertaining and something along these lines:

Make $100,000 a year working one hour a day from home!

Look 25 years younger in thirty minutes for only five dollars!

Grow the bushiest head of hair on your block!

and my new favorite...
Try the Ten Days of Chocolate diet and lose up to 20 pounds!

What?! The commercial goes on to tell the listener that they can eat unlimited amounts of real chocolate for ten days and lose their pesky flab. I'm sorry folks, I hate to poop the party, but there's simpy no way that this can be true. If you eat as much chocolate as you want for the next ten days you will lose one thing, and one thing only...your booty appeal to the opposite sex. In other words, you will become a broken-out-hunk-o-lard with an extra-large-side-of-saddle-bags. I know this, I've been pregnant.

I will however, let you on my own little dieting secret. Yesterday I ate a mini-bag of Cheetos. On second thought, "mini" is really not an appropriate adjective, so let me try it again. Yesterday I ate one honkin' bag of Cheetos. The bag was really deceiving. It was purchased at a Willie Nelson Bio-Diesel gas station and labelled "Big Grab." Back in my day, the big grab housed one or two servings of whatever crap it was that you were consuming--well, times have changed. This big grab had four servings of cheesy-powdered-goodness, 640 calories, and 40 whopping grams of fat! "Totally and utterly disgusting!!!" I thought.

And then I ate the whole thing.

Well, I woke up this morning, feeling fantastic. I felt even more fantastic when I stepped on the scale and learned that I had lost two pounds.

So please, don't listen to those numb-skulls on the radio. It's not the Ten Days of Chocolate diet, it's the Ten Days of Cheetos diet that'll get some results. If you would like more details about this fool-proof plan, send me fifty dollars and we'll go from there.

Oral Comps for Amy
April 4, 2007

I am a mom, and I am a grad student. These might seem like two completely unrelated undertakings, but you'd be amazed at how much my two worlds overlap.

I am finally--and thankfully--in the fourth and final year of my two-year grad program, which means I am finally--and thankfully--graduating in May. You might wonder why I have taken so long to complete this 36 credit degree, and the answer is simple. I'm getting a Master's in Public Administration and let's face it, the s*** is boring. You would have needed some diversions in your educational path, too.

As the crowning jewel of this snoring-boring degree program, I have to pass an "oral comprehensive exam." The academics call it "oral comps" for short, and I simply call it "another-test-that-I'll-cram-for-and-forget-it-all-tomorrow-anyway." But that title is too long for James to remember, so I refer to the test as "poop" when I'm talking to James. For example, "shhhh...Mommy is studying poop, " or "Mommy needs to concentrate because she needs to take her big poop soon."

Anywho, the big test goes like this...my advisor emails me eight questions related to my field of study. I learn the answers to all eight and have to answer four of the questions in front of a panel of my professors. Bottom line is this: you look way too ridiculously passionate about public administration and you get to graduate, or you look like a total and complete dumb-brain and you cry from sun-up to sun-down on May 12th. Both options have their advantages, but I'm shooting for the first one.

I finally got my oral comp questions this week and the studying has begun [sidenote: studying has consisted of me plugging key words into wikipedia and seeing if someone has already done the work for me]. I want to take this time to discuss how the real-me would like to answer a few of these questions.

Because I want you to keep reading, I have paraphrased the questions:

Q. You want to change the culture of an organization to reflect a greater commitment to citizen service. Outline two management strategies to do so.

A. Oh my gosh...I don't care! How about you hire bikini-clad super models to work at the town office and give people and order of mozzeralla sticks when they pay their taxes. That's two strategies...there ya go.

Q. Define the various forms of privatization. Discuss the conditions necessary to ensure the likely success of privatization.

A. 1) Buy mini-blinds, install them and keep them shut.
2) Wear pants when you go to the grocery store, and then keep them on the whole time.
3) When your neighbors are home, rely on silent hand-gestures to show your spouse how exasperated you are with him.

Q. Select a level of government you would like to work for as public manager (federal, state, local), outline your strategy to increase levels of citizen trust in your government agency.

A. Ok, I watch Dr. Phil--I know that people who can't trust have issues rooted in childhood. If they don't trust me, we'll hold a bake sale and use the proceeds to send them to therapy. And if that doesn't work we'll drive 'em out of town...I don't want those types in my world anyway.

Q. Illustrate and explain contrasting perspectives of equity and efficiency in U.S. society.

A. (?) I'm not even going to waste my brain power on that kind of junk.

So there you have it, my real-life answers to the oral comps. Wish me luck my friends!

Yes, I'm still *running*
April 3, 2007

Every time I get back in touch with old friends on myspace/friendster/facebook, they inevitably ask the same question… "are you still running?!" Welp, it's complicated…so if you're curious, please read on.

For those of you who don't know, I was a kick-ass runner ten years ago. I ran the mile in 5:09 and the two mile in 11:57 (for all you non-runners out there, those are fab times). I was the CT State Champ and the New England runner-up in the two mile, and I won my age group in the 7-mile Falmouth Road Race (42 minutes folks…that 6 minutes per mile). Oh the glory days!!!! I would lace up my shoes, set my watch and just run. It was so simple, and I was so good at it.

Well, time has marched on and life has changed—a lot. In the past ten years I've gotten married, adopted my husband's hyper-thyroidal eating habits, gained 15 donut-pounds, had a baby, gained and lost one hell of a badong-gadong butt, and started running again. I've noticed some distinct differences between running then and now, and I thought this would be a suitable forum to explore them.

Please refer to the discussion below:

1997-Running was natural, fun and challenging
2007-Liposuction would be a lot easier than this

1997-I felt like a Kenyan
2007-I feel like a nursing home resident who’s at risk of falling in the shower.

1997-Running required shorts, a t-shirt, shoes and socks. Sometimes I wore a watch.
2007-Running requires a membership to an on-line running forum, a membership to the YMCA, a subscription to Runner’s World magazine, specially fitted shoes from a running shop, wicking socks, a top-of-the-line baby jogger, a fully-charged MP3 player (with motivational songs like Eye of the Tiger and We Will Rock You), mace, my cell phone (so I can call friends and family and have them tell me what a good job I’m doing), running shorts with built-in underoos, a dri-fit shirt, a reflective vest (I’m a mom now—safety first), and the piece-de-resistance…a GPS unit.*

1997-I was faster than anyone I knew
2007-I’m way faster than every single member of the weight loss group for retired people that meets at the park near my apartment…suckers.

The good news is I'm still winning. I have two strategies for my continued success. First, I enter the smallest, most obscure races that I can possibly find. My chances of winning an age group award increase drastically when there are only 3 or 4 other ladies in my age group. This is how I picked up my victory in the JL Long PTA 5k last fall. It was held on a Thursday night and the field consisted of middle school kids, their parents, and me—just the way I like it.
I also scored a medal at the Too Cold to Hold 5k this past January. I woke up the morning of this race and it was 30 degrees and pouring down freezing rain—the newscasters were begging people to stay off of the roads. My first thought? "Perfect, no one is going to be there….I'm gonna get me a trophy." And I did.

My second strategy is almost as fool proof. In some races, women who weigh 150 pounds or more are eligible to register in the Clydesdale division. I have no pride; if it will score me some hardware I will take on the name of a giant work-horse that drinks beer instead of water. Hell, if it would increase my chances of winning a trophy I'd sign up for the "flabby-assed-junk-in-the-trunk-over-due-pregnant-elephant division"—fine with me. Now don't get me wrong, 150 pounds is not even close to hefty; most women are just too timid to put their weight down in writing anywhere, including a race entrance form. I generally hover between 147 and 152 pounds, so sometimes I don't make the Clydesdale cut. But you can bet your bottom dollar that the night before a Clydesdale race you'll find me eating country-fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits, banana bread and an ice cream sundae—I want to make the weight cut, so I give it my best effort.

So the answer is yes, I still run. But "running," my friends, is a relative term.

* Yes, I actually carry a GPS unit when I run. It tells me how far and "fast" I'm running. Basically, it tells me if I'm running slow-speed, really slow-speed, or you-should-be-really-embarrassed-speed. The freaking thing never stops beeping. [note: it's set to beep twice when I'm running slower than my target pace— 9 minute miles]

Do I need Ambien? Because....
March 19, 2007

I've been having some trouble sleeping lately. The typical sleep troubles--difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, a vivid & recurring dream that my husband is walking around with a mini-pad stuck to his head, etc.
Dogs' mouths are cleaner than human mouths, right?
March 15, 2007

So I was standing around at the park this morning, chatting it up with some other hot-moms. James was running around somewhere, probably balancing on top of something tall, while I was holding Gracie on her leash (FYI: she's a dog, not a child). Gracie seemed kind of quiet, so I turned around to see what she was up to. I was a little flustered to find that her head was nuzzled into someone's jogging stroller. The flustration level went through the roof when I discovered that my pooch was licking the butter off of a waffle that was sitting in the stroller...obviously some kid's snack for later. Welp, I didn't know who the stroller belonged to and we had to leave the park. Sorry kiddo! Hope you liked your waffle....my dog sure did!